Do you feel like you race through your days like a Formula 1 race car? How often to you slow down and check in with yourself about how you are feeling? Do you regularly feel worn down or unhappy with yourself? Ever feel like you keep doing something the same way, even if it doesn’t work that well?
Introspective practice can help you find understanding into changing the way you think, feel and act. Introspection is a very important skill related to social and emotional maturation.
Merriam-Webster defines introspection as a reflective looking inward and an examination of one’s own thoughts and feelings. This examination is available to us to understand how we perceive and react to our thoughts. We have built many of these patterns through our experiences and before we even have the capacity to observe our own thoughts!
Thought patterns are linkages of thoughts and beliefs about us and the world into networks that can be simply called positive and negative networks. Positive networks are thought patterns that feel true, safe, joyful and meaningful. Positive networks are the foundations for self-esteem, self-love and self-confidence. Negative thought patterns are thoughts that feel painful and even harmful to the self. These patterns can be automatic and unconscious. These thinking patterns can lead to feelings of unworthiness, discouragement, guilt and shame. These negative patterns are very powerful and can lead to distorted self-image, thought biases, problematic relationships and other chronic mental and behavioral issues.
Conscious introspection is a more deliberate, self-initiated behavior that can help you change the way you think and feel. This can lead you to think and behave more in line with your value system. This practice can help you at home and work. Conscious introspection can even generate new neurons and pathways in your brain! These new pathways actually increase brain size and brain health which has direct benefit to healthy living and aging. Setting goals and completing tasks offer an opportunity for conscious introspection.
Try this: Set a goal that will take several steps to complete. This could be related to a healthy lifestyle choice or relationship goal. Then accomplish it! Really try to savor the success. Take time to deliberately affirm yourself and each effort you took in the steps to complete your goal. Congratulate yourself and say “Wow–I did it!” and allow yourself to feel good about you. With repetition and practice, you will feel more satisfied and self-confident. You will be able to evaluate yourself more effectively and less critically when you don’t meet your goals or achieve the tasks you set out to do. Also, when you practice conscious introspection, you are more likely to spend less time in negative thought patterns which could be unhelpful, time-consuming and possibly self-injurious.
Introspective techniques can be learned by anyone. Guidance is necessary, in which case psychotherapy, individual and group therapy, and other contemplative practices are available. Additionally, couples can utilize these techniques together to set goals for their relationship. Couples counseling can facilitate relationship skills that help both partners practice positive introspection of themselves and their partner in the relationship.